Developer(s) – Wow Entertainment
Publisher(s) – Sega
Released three years after the original game, House of the Dead 2 received a mostly positive reception from critics; most seemingly in agreement that it made significant improvements on the first titles in the series. Personally, I do have to say as a prerequisite that I spent a lot of time playing this game when I was younger, but looking back at it now, I realize many of the core faults with it.
Graphics – 7/10
Despite a number of glitches here and there, the visuals were very much ahead of their time, since it was ported to the Sega Dreamcast as well as arcade cabinets, and the Dreamcast was capable of rendering much more advanced visuals than both the Nintendo 64 and the original PlayStation. The conceptual design was fairly well handled for the most part, with the game being set in Venice, Italy. But the game also takes the player to different locations as it progresses, such as a colosseum in Rome, and a once-thriving modern city. Those levels are set in broad daylight, however, and because of that, the game loses much more of it’s horror factor towards the end the way I see it.
Gameplay – 7/10
Despite the many faults this game has, the one aspect that was enjoyable at the time, and is still enjoyable to this day, is the gameplay. A first person rail shooter, the objective is simply to kill every zombie or monster that may block the player’s path in order to progress through each level, and defeat the various bosses waiting for them. When I was growing up, I was always lukewarm to rail-shooting games, but after the likes of Halo and Half-Life came to home consoles, they blew games like this out of the water, since there was much more to them. Nevertheless, it’s only in terms of gameplay that I feel this title does hold up to a small extent.
Controls – 10/10
The control schemes in rail shooters are much more simple and self-explanatory than even a first-person shooter, so consequently, there are no issues that will arise in this respect whilst playing it. The only functions players must grow accustomed to, are simply aiming, shooting and reloading.
Lifespan – 3/10
In lieu of the tradition of the genre, one playthrough of this game will only last an average of forty minutes. But what longevity there is in playing this game comes from the fact that it was designed to be played a multitude of times; especially since there are a few alternative endings to unlock, dependant on certain circumstances throughout the game. I do feel, however, that much more could have been added to make it last at least twice as long, or even an endless mode could have been added to the home console versions of the game.
Storyline – 2/10
The worst thing about this game is undoubtedly the storyline. Even though the industry was still in the process of getting out of the mindset that video games didn’t necessarily have to tell a story in order to be good, there were many different factors making this story especially bad. It follows AMS agents James and Gary trying to get to the bottom of a zombie epidemic that has broken out in Venice, and is threatening to spread across the planet. Aside from the plot being extremely typical of most zombie films to have been released prior, the voice acting is particularly poor and embarrassing. Anyone who may have thought the original Resident Evil may have bad voice acting, they haven’t heard anything yet until they experience what this game has to offer. It also now seems pretty stupid that the developers chose to keep the name The House of the Dead attached to the project, since the setting contradicts the name greatly, as its no longer set in a house. Personally, I would have given it a more relative name, and just stuck with the same text font, so that people would have recognized that it was from the same series of games, but alas, the developers settled on what they did.
Originality – 4/10
Aside from the story being very unoriginal, the gameplay, whilst enjoyable, didn’t really bring anything new to the genre; essentially playing out like a carbon copy of the first game, as well as other games in the genre, such as Time Crisis or Virtua Cop. Although the reload mechanism is much more accessible than in Time Crisis, there wasn’t anything beyond that which made it stand out from any other rail shooting title.
Overall, House of the Dead 2 was a decent game maybe 15 years ago, but now, it seems like that much less enjoyable an experience for those many reasons. With so many zombie-based shooters finding their way into mainstream gaming these days, it would be hard for Sega to make another game in the series, unless they do something drastic with the story as well as the gameplay.